Customer Care Means Listening Not Measuring

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Customer Care is like fishing. You can measure your success on sheer volume, but the party on the other end of the line may not feel the same way.

NTT DATA Services recently conducted a survey and about how companies manage automated solutions in customer service. At a high level the results are 80% of businesses have created but not executed a customer service automation plan and 20% have automated technologies in place with no defined plan.

Additional findings of the study include:

  • 66% agree or strongly agree transforming automated customer service offerings is more challenging than expected
  • 22% understand the impact automation brings to the customers service landscape by changing the capabilities and skills of human agents
  • 14% of businesses truly know what it will take to automate customer service

Speaking with Kris Fitzgerald the CTO of NTT DATA Services, who informed me that the surveys included customers who used customer care and companies that have a customer care center.

“Businesses often adopt an automation-related practice without fully understanding their consumer needs,” Fitzgerald explained. “The result, then, is frustrated customers – only 9 percent of whom actually believe virtual agents can solve their problem. Right now, companies must reconsider the solutions they offer to their consumers.”

Some of the key questions included:

  • How does automation impact customers’ expectations for customer service?
  • Are consumers ready for automated customer services?
  • Are enterprises ready for automated customer service?
  • What challenges do enterprises need to overcome to improve the automated customer experience?

Overall many of us know about the frustrations of dealing with call centers. In those that use automation, the simple, front-end interactive response systems can’t make out what we say. In human agent-based call centers, customers face communication issues with people in foreign countries that we can’t make out what they say.

In theory those frustrations make the customers welcome advances in technology.

“Efficiency might be important, but businesses cannot forget about their customers’ need for quality,” Fitzgerald reveals. “Consumers are not happy with just replacing humans with virtual agents. Even if virtual agents might work at an average level for simple inquiries, quality service remains the top issue for customers.”

The study was also refined by focusing on the primary reasons for the customer contact which included gathering info, buying a product, filing a complaint, returning or exchanging the product, changing an account, and/or seeking support.

The study revealed that 94% of the customers trusted human interaction to be better than an automated system. A third of the customers went on to share they get frustrated by automated agents. These results combined with other the surveys of the businesses using virtual agents revealed a gap between the customer satisfaction and the companies’ view of customer satisfaction. That was particularly clear in the fact that companies thought customers had good virtual experience 62% of the time when the reality from consumers is was 42% of the time.

For customers the critical piece is to have the call answered correctly the first time. Speed, Accuracy and familiarity with the product or service were essential in the customers mind for success. When it comes to working with virtual agents, over 75 percent of consumers would prefer to have a live agent solve their problem in a longer time period, as opposed to a virtual agent that would solve their problem in two minutes or less. This may have something to do with the businesses valuing quality (32%) much less than the customer

However, solutions like Alexa and SIRI as well as age has divided the consumer into two segments: GenX and Millennials, or groups that NTT DATA Services calls Yay – Sayers who are willing to use automated agents and Nay – Sayers who are not.

The best news is that four out of five companies have not implemented a virtual agent solution yet and at least halve of them are not looking at the total requirements from the customer’s perspective, but there is time for a change in understanding. To succeed in using virtual agents, it is critical that companies;

  • Understand the full business impact and determine if the key benefit is financial, customer experience, or scale
  • Clearly define automation policies, principles, frameworks, roles, responsibilities, and certifications / trainings for sustainability
  • Gather the data and intelligence is the foundation upon which automation is built
  • Understand the automation landscape is necessary in order to plan for the right ecosystem.

As Kris points out success depends on prioritizing customer needs with cognitive intelligence. Rather than simply install an automated system to keep up with the latest trend, businesses should strategically employ automated solutions that work with their business offerings and respond appropriately to their customers’ needs. Keeping the conversations with the customer coherent requires episodic understanding of the conversation(s). Taking advantage of NTT DATA Services understanding of the customers and intelligent automation they are well positioned to help keep your customers happy.

Just give them a call.

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